BUCS Super Rugby recently reached a milestone.
The top division in student rugby has continually provided a platform for players to take the next step in the game and last week, it was revealed that 100 players who have appeared in the league have now featured in either the Gallagher Premiership or the United Rugby Championship.
Additionally, last weekend was the first time that every Premiership team had a former BUCS Super Rugby player starting for them.
It is clear the positive effect this league is having on rugby in the UK, and with all 10 BSR teams being afforded a rest week, we look at the state of play after six rounds of high-scoring thrillers, memorable upsets and wet weather clashes.
The first six weeks for Exeter University have been nothing short of perfect, picking up 29 points from a possible 30 and sitting eight points clear at the top of the table.
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They have already had some memorable victories this season, including putting 57 points past their old foes Loughborough, beating Durham in front of a noisy Sandy Park crowd and, most recently, coming away from Cardiff University with five valuable points.
After winning the last two Championship titles, the Devonians are after the coveted league & cup double. They still have some tough tests away from home to come, but with the free-flowing rugby they are playing, Exeter undoubtedly look like the team to beat and have so far proved unstoppable.
After winning the league last year and falling agonisingly short in the championship final, the African Violet would’ve had high hopes for this campaign.
After six weeks, they sit in second place but have very little breathing space between themselves and the teams below. In attack, they have been ruthless and a joy to watch, averaging 33 points a game and securing five try bonus points already this term. Their 34-10 win against Cardiff University perfectly showcased their exciting style of play.
Their defence has been less reliable and Durham University and Exeter have already put 40 and 57 points past them respectively. If they are to continue their title charge and be in contention towards the back end of the season, this is definitely an area which needs addressing.
Durham University have closed the gap on Loughborough to one point after beating them 40-29 last week. It was an impressive performance away from home, picking up five points at a ground where most teams fail to have much joy, and the win will certainly be a building block for Simon Culley's side.
The week before, they faced Exeter at Sandy Park, and despite the loss, they put in a great first-half display, with winger Paul Brown showing his quality once more.
Their season has also included a loss to Cardiff Met University in Round Two which has prevented them from getting any kind of winning run going, but they will hope to turn this around and push themselves further up the table before Christmas.
Sitting fourth in the table and 10 points off the top are Cardiff Met University, a side that has shown undeniable quality in the first six rounds but has also been plagued by inconsistency.
They started the season on a hot run of form, beating their Welsh rivals Swansea University and Cardiff University in the first two weeks and they also put 50 points past the latter.
They continued this purple patch by beating Durham University before losing to Bath and Nottingham. Failure to win any of their past three fixtures has seen them fall off the pace at the top of the table, but with the return of their star winger Roma Zheng (who moved to Harlequins in the summer), Cardiff Met will believe they can still beat anyone on their day.
In a similar fashion to Cardiff Met University, Hartpury University have also shown their high standards but have also been unable to back it up with any consistency.
There is only a singular point between the two sides and their most recent game in front of an impressive Kingsholm crowd ended in a 26-26 draw, proving just how little separates the pair.
Hartpury have already put in impressive displays against Cardiff, Swansea and Leeds Beckett. They will look to emulate these performances if they are to finish the season in the top four, something they have failed to do since 2019.
The start to this season was a tough one for the men in blue and gold, as they suffered three disappointing defeats on the road against Durham, Loughborough and Leeds Beckett.
However, the home form of Aaron James troops has proved nothing short of a lifeline, kick-started by a win at The Rec in a wet and windy anniversary game against Cardiff Met University.
Consecutive victories against Hartpury and Swansea has given them a platform for the season, and they will look to continue this winning run when they welcome bottom-of-the-table Nottingham University to the West Country next week.
Swansea University have had a mixed bag of results this season, but they still sit comfortably in the play-off positions as they look to improve on their ninth-place finish of last term.
They started their campaign with consecutive defeats against Cardiff Met and Hartpury, and it wasn’t until Round Three where they picked up their first win of the season at home to Nottingham.
They then took league leaders Exeter University to the last play of the game before beating their Welsh rivals Cardiff the following week. It is these types of performances they will need to replicate in their huge clash against Leeds Beckett University next week, with only one point separating them in the table.
Coming into this campaign, Leeds Beckett University hadn’t won a BUCS Super Rugby game since last December and had narrowly avoided the dreaded drop by beating Brunel University in a play-off.
They started their campaign in equally poor fashion by losing to Cardiff and Durham. However, a massively impressive performance from Kerry Wood's side in Round Three saw them pick up an important victory against Bath University.
They followed this up by beating Nottingham 37-18 in the most recent week of fixtures. Leeds Beckett have already won more games this season than they did in the entirety of last year and are one point off their 2022/2023 total. Whilst they may not be the BUCS Super Rugby powerhouse of old, their improvement over the first six weeks has been monumental.
Cardiff University seem to be on a different trajectory to the side above them, and they sit in ninth spot after two consecutive seasons in the top six.
Here we go again.— Talking Rugby Union (@TalkRugbyUnion) September 26, 2023
?? #BUCSSuperRugby is back and Exeter may well be targeting Hartpury's record of a hat-trick of titles...
TRU heard from all ?? teams ahead of tomorrow's season opener #UniRugby
?? @BUCSSuperRugby https://t.co/wXel08GvRY pic.twitter.com/UFY6nXoYGm
As mentioned to TRU before the start of the campaign, Cardiff are in a transitional year and only one win from their first six matches perhaps indicates this.
They may well be looking to work on their defence before they return to action against Durham next week as they have shipped 50 points twice already, and are averaging 37 points conceded per game.
After an impressive debut season in BUCS Super Rugby that saw them reach the play-offs, Nottingham University would have hoped for more of the same this campaign.
However, there has not been much to shout about for the Midlands institution so far. Their opening fixtures were about as tough as it gets, having to play all of last year’s top four in their first four games and failing to win any.
A heroic performance in a 42-39 win over Cardiff Met in Round Five has undoubtedly been their highlight so far and they will hope to use that impressive attacking display as a building block for the rest of the season.